Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

You might have read about the trial I plunged into 13 years ago. I’ve written about it many times, as it’s given me plenty to write about. In case you haven’t, or you’ve forgotten, I’ll give you a little recap.

I sat in church one Sunday all those Sundays ago, and heard the words straight out of the book of Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.”  Those are the words God gave Joshua as he was about to take over Moses’s job leading the Israelites through the desert and into the Promised Land.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of hearing or reading certain words in the Bible, and you were sure they had leapt off the page, stared you straight in the face daring you to adopt them as your own.  

If you’ve known Christ for very long, you probably have.  If you’re relatively new to following Him, I’m telling you right now, the day will come when that will happen. Don’t second guess it. The Holy Spirit, our Counselor in Chief, is speaking to you.

I knew He was speaking to me the first time.  But apparently once wasn’t enough.  Either I was slow or the journey would be long and rough. Both, it turns out. I don’t remember the exact situation each time, but over the course of the next month I heard those words three more times, and each subsequent time they came at me faster and louder.

A friend was there every time, too, and we talked about the fact that it was odd that those words kept coming up. The fourth time I heard them, my friend, who was sitting a few rows in front of me, turned and looked into my eyes. She confirmed it wasn’t just my imagination.  She knew something was up, too.

Of course neither of us had any idea what it meant.  But I was soon to find out. Sort of.

I had been having some bad headaches, and an even more difficult time sleeping. One Sunday, about a month after my four personal exhortations, I just so happened to be at another church our church had planted, and I just so happened to run into a friend of mine in the bathroom, and she just so happened to ask how I was doing, and I told her.  She told me I should have my blood pressure checked.

My blood pressure had never been anything over a perfectly respectable normal, even prior to surgery, and I didn’t have any of the usual risk factors, so I knew it wasn’t high, but just to cross that off my list, I put my arm in one of those blood pressure cuffs while I was at the store shopping after church, and pushed the button.

I looked at the reading, and stared at it for a minute.  Surely it couldn’t be that high. 

Maybe it was just high because I was trying to corral my son as I sat there while that cuff tightened around my arm like the grim reaper was trying to pull me away.  So I took a couple of deep breaths, tried to calm down, and pushed the button again.  This time it was even higher. Before I knew it I found myself in a fire station where they could take it and tell me that the machine just wasn’t working and my blood pressure was just fine.

Only it wasn’t.  Suddenly they were asking me if I could see, was my vision blurry, how did I feel…  I felt fine, except that now tears were rolling down my face. Something was terribly, drastically wrong. They wanted to call an ambulance, but my husband promised to take me directly to the emergency room.

And that started my journey through my own dry, confusing, anxiety-filled desert. My journey into learning to believe God even when things seemed out of control. Even when it seemed like He wasn’t listening to my cries for healing, or even for a diagnosis for that sky-high blood pressure and the many health issues that would follow.

I wanted my old life back so bad.  I wanted to serve and do and be and go…

But God refused to let me go back to Egypt. He had better things for me. Not things you can see, mind you. While I had prayed many times for deliverance from this surely evil thing that had taken ahold of my body, God was delivering me from other things far more important.

The third time God spoke these words to Joshua, He finished His admonition with this: “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

And whether I could see Him or feel Him, my God has been with me, too, delivering me from those dark places of unbelief, from lack of discipline, from self-centeredness, from a shallow, self-reliant, self-righteous, works-based “faith.”  He’s been delivering me from myself.

In the heat of the desert He is infusing my heart with His, my character and mind, soul and spirit, with His.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23

One day when I stand before Jesus, I’ll see all He’s done for me, the godly character He worked into me that I never could have learned with a healthy body.

He may choose to deliver you a different way.  He knows what each of us needs. He is as much a personal God as He is loving and forgiving and compassionate.

If you’re in a desert now, be strong and courageous.  He’s with you.  And He will deliver you safely, whole and completed, to the Promised Land.